Dirty Grandpa

Review by Matt Thrift @Matt_Cinephile

Directed by

Dan Mazer

Starring

Aubrey Plaza Robert De Niro Zac Efron

Anticipation.

That trailer…

Enjoyment.

Please, make it stop.

In Retrospect.

De Niro hits rock bottom. Time for an intervention, Marty.

Robert De Niro hits an all-time low alongside Zac Efron in this insufferable road trip comedy.

In our review of last year’s misguided Al Pacino vehicle, Danny Collins, we facetiously suggested that perhaps the reason its star and his equally-regarded contemporary, Robert De Niro, were churning out such consistent levels of dreck in recent years was the result of an inside joke between the two – a competition to see who could make the worst film. In whichever parallel universe such audience-trolling japery might exist, the release of Dirty Grandpa sees the contest unequivocally closed, a champion crowned.

If there’s a single positive to be taken away for those lamenting the post-millennial downward trajectory of De Niro’s career choices, it’s the knowledge that Dirty Grandpa represents rock bottom (sub-stratum, even) and that the next film we see him in will be – can only be – better.

For now though, this is what we’ve got: an insidiously misanthropic road-trip yarn, steeped in vile dudebro privilege masquerading as equal-opportunity offensiveness. Not a single character (or actor) escapes with a shred of dignity intact, as an alternately bored or bewildered Zac Efron accompanies his recently bereaved gramps on a skirt-chasing trip to Florida.

With Efron playing the straight-man to De Niro’s horny old toad, he’s more often than not the butt of the ‘jokes’ – quite literally in a running gag that sees a grandfather stick his thumb up his grandson’s arse at every given opportunity.

The road trip itself begins with an extended shot of De Niro masturbating, continuing a strangely recurrent trope within the actor’s comedies. What’s the obsession filmmakers have with De Niro’s junk? The Intern, The Big Wedding, Little Fockers – even 1900 – all feature sequences that zero-in on his hard-on. Perhaps it’s contractual? A last stand of virility as his more celebrated talents visibly deflate; his very own phallocentric Alamo?

Yet it’s difficult to feel too much sympathy for cinema’s foremost Archbishop of Peru (see 2004’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey – actually, don’t), given the vile dialogue he’s made to spout. Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman’s Bradley finds himself on the receiving end of one of De Niro’s most repellent attacks: being black and gay apparently a gag in and of itself. Not that it’s any better for the film’s female characters, alternately reduced to sexpots (poor Aubrey Plaza), harridans or chaste, would-be girlfriends. A karaoke set-piece constructed entirely around De Niro dropping the n-bomb forms an echo chamber of bad judgement around all involved.

Dan Mazer directs like a man in constant negotiation with an intemperate black hole, locking horns in a Sisyphean battle against a nation’s entire tumbleweed stock; those inanimate De Niro-comedy groupies that tumble far to have their existential cries of purpose definitively answered. He’s a long way from the smart satire of Borat, or the throwaway charms of I Give It A Year.

The ugliest film in recent memory – in every sense of the word – we can only hope it meets the fate it deserves. Perhaps then De Niro will put some effort into getting his purported Scorsese project, The Irishman fast-tracked. God knows he needs it.

Published 28 Jan 2016

Anticipation.

That trailer…

Enjoyment.

Please, make it stop.

In Retrospect.

De Niro hits rock bottom. Time for an intervention, Marty.

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